Senin, 21 November 2005

Sex, Art, Feminism and national culture

The Gallery of Polish 20th-Century Art at the Krakow National Museum just reopened (Polish link) with a brand new look. (Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to the Museum's website, which still seems like an archaeological exhibit rather than an important European venue and isn't even translated into English)
Among the various new elements, presence of the "youngest" generation is quite a novelty, as so far anyone born after 1939 and/or using any other means than oil on canvas or marble wasn't welcome at national (permanent) exhibitions.
This wasn't an easy step. Poland has a problem with tradition. It is defined through culture, which is defined through art, and thus artists are turned into monuments, and desired dead or at least "understandable", i.e., consistent with what had already happened before in art and (Polish) history. Recently, though, the Polish art world seems to be slowly waking up from the romantic dream of our "great forefathers", to discover that the artists haven't been sleeping, and their creations are as rich and diversified as pretty much anywhere else in the bad, bad, commercialized and rotten world we live in.
No awakening would be real without a few controversies. One of the major ones in Poland are women artists speaking of the female condition, graphically, shockingly, without the customary shyness or estheticizing. Sex is there, gender plays funny games, culture meets nature just to fight it till death over who we are, and how.
I found an interesting article by Pawe┼é Leszkowicz about this new generation of Polish women artists. Some of it I agree with, some of it is speculation or stretching the limits of interpretation, but it's an interesting look at an important voice in the contemporary discussion about sex, gender and identity. As to the affirmation that "the critical violations of women’s art expose the violence of sexual inequality hidden under layers of democratic jargon and religion-turned-ideology", hopefuly this reinvented gallery at the Krakow National Museum will be an important step in proving, or rather making, this statement a false one.

Alicja ┼╗ebrowska, Original Sin (still) (1994)

Katarzyna Kozyra, Bonds of Blood (1999)

(you can find more about contemporary Polish feminist art here and here)

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